Why Give a Damn About Pelosi? How About the Nuclear Strike We Would Have Made on China Over Formosa?

Yves here. Paul Jay gives some critically important backstory over a staredown the US had with China over what was then Formosa in 1958, based on classified information from Daniel Ellsberg. The early part of the interview, where he treats Pelosi as an “irrelevant figure” shows a misunderstanding of Chinese perception, and even that of commentators in Parliamentary systems, where they default to seeing the leadership party (assuming it is not hamstrung by a coalition or as with Theresa May, a razor thin majority) as in charge. The idea that Pelosi could and was defying an admittedly weak President was hard for them to swallow. Part of the reason she could, at least according to press reports, is that Biden didn’t want to look weak on China by forcing her to stay away from Taiwan.

That is a long-winded way of saying regardless of your reaction to Paul Jay’s take on the Pelosi visit, his discussion of how the US was ready to drop a nuclear bomb on China if it attacked Formosa was winning, is important, if disconcerting.

By Paul Jay. Originally published at theAnalysis.news

Colin Bruce

Welcome to theAnalysis.news. I’m Colin Bruce Anthes. A Canadian educator, activist and organizer with Community Wealth Candidates. In a few seconds, we’ll be talking to Paul Jay about Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Why do you think Nancy Pelosi is making this trip to Taiwan? How dangerous is it? How concerned should we be?

Paul Jay

Thanks, Colin. As you know, President Xi Jinping had warned Biden before Pelosi’s trip that people who play with fire will get burned. So it’s not a surprise then that China followed up on her visit to Taiwan with a show of force.

According to the Global Times, which generally speaks for the Chinese government in English, “the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the PLA, on Thursday commenced the second phase of its large-scale military exercises that completely locked down the island of Taiwan and began to use live fire.” Global Times continues that this followed U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, which Global Times says seriously violated China’s sovereignty.

The report continues, “the unprecedented drills featured long-range rocket artillery, anti-ship ballistic missiles, stealth fire jets, an aircraft carrier group with a nuclear-powered submarine, as well as realistic tactics that simulated a real reunification by force operation, demonstrating and honing the PLA’s capabilities to not only take over the island but also prevent any external interference, including from the U.S.” end quote.

Okay, let me say that one line again. Essentially, it was a dress rehearsal for the taking over of Taiwan. Quote, “realistic tactics that simulated a real reunification by force operation.” I think China could have played down the significance of the visit, but it chose not to, giving Pelosi the world stage for her crazy, reckless stunt. The CCP gets a chance to show the Chinese people it will defend China’s honor and national pride. It’s not afraid to use military force. It’s also an opportunity for making it clear to the government of Taiwan what’s in store if they declare formal independence. I also think it’s a completely unnecessary response to be threatening the people of Taiwan with such devastating might. Pelosi’s visit didn’t create an imminent threat to China.

In what world does this help persuade the people of Taiwan that they want to join with the rest of China? How dangerous is the situation? Crazy things do happen, but at this point, it doesn’t seem Pelosi’s visit leads to war. The visit is a reflection of the dangerous chaos that is U.S.-China policy.

Colin Bruce

I also have a little bit of a hard time understanding what kind of position the American government is taking towards China, in general.

Paul Jay

Well, first of all, there are objective considerations and subjective considerations. So what I mean by that is the rivalry between the United States and China, two big countries, one fully capitalist, the one to a large extent capitalist, with China becoming an economy that will be as big as and then bigger. So that’s objective, that’s happening, and it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks it’s happening. Subjective is about what people think: prestige, ego, and national identity. These are all things that go on in people’s brains, sometimes as a reflection of objectivity and sometimes as a reflection of propaganda and inculcation.

So, on the face of it, objectively, who gives a damn if Nancy Pelosi goes to China? What does it change? She’s about as important to the making of U.S. foreign policy, well, I guess more than I am, but not a lot more than I am; other than that, she’s going there, and nobody would care if I did. The fundamental issues around Taiwan have to do with this economic rivalry, and then they have to do with two very important objective factors: arms sales and semiconductors.

So does Nancy Pelosi in any way change the equation on arms sales? Well, maybe an iota, and it creates some more tension. Maybe it’s an excuse to have more arms, but it could actually even cut the other way. If you look at the American reaction in the press and most of the political elite, not the rabid Right and neo-cons who love her for doing this. Most of the reaction is that this is playing with fire. It’s a tinder box. You’re provoking China for no reason. It could almost cut against more arms sales to Taiwan as much as it could help it. So, I don’t know.

I think the reality and objectivity of her going is, like, practically irrelevant. She’s been an irrelevant figure, except she’s being made out to be a more important figure. So why? One, because she thinks it serves domestic U.S. politics to look tough on China. I guess she knows more about U.S. politics than I do. Not I guess; I’m sure she does. I’ve never got elected to anything. Maybe she’s right. Maybe being tough on China helps her in some places. I would guess the places that help her it doesn’t help her enough. Republicans who despise her are not going to vote for her because she makes a trip to Taiwan.

At any rate, let’s assume she went there for electoral reasons. On the other side for China, why do they give a damn if Nancy Pelosi goes to China? How does it change anything? It doesn’t. As I said, she’s irrelevant to the making of U.S. foreign policy. Is the United States going to sell more or less arms to China because of Taiwan? No. Is it going to change the semiconductor situation? For people who don’t know, Taiwan is the largest manufacturer of semiconductors in the world and by a long stretch of it. The United States does not want China to get control of Taiwanese semiconductors, which is part of why they’re going to defend Taiwanese democracy if democracy is made with semiconductors. Of course, Taiwan is a significant purchaser of American arms.

Her visit doesn’t change any of that, so why make such a big deal out of it if you’re China? Well, for two reasons. One, the Biden administration has been inching closer to what is a Chinese red line, which was the declaration of Taiwanese formal independence from China. I don’t know how real that is. They have been crossing some lines. At Biden’s inauguration, he invited a representative of Taiwan, which I think was the first time that ever happened.

Does it really change anything? Well, sort of, in terms of perception. They keep declaring, and Pelosi’s delegation to Taiwan on Tuesday also declared that this visit doesn’t change the declaration that was made in— what was it, 1979, with [Richard] Nixon. It doesn’t change the 1982 declarations and agreements. There was another set of promises to Taiwan called the Six Assurances. All of those things, they recognize, essentially, that Taiwan is part of China, but it’s ambiguous language. They do agree not to have state-level relations with Taiwan, but they also agree to kind of, at some point, diminish U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, but they’ve agreed to disagree on when they’re going to phase out arms sales because that’s what China agreed to.

China, this was done during Deng Xiaoping, and their motive was to open China up to American capital and open up American markets, which was part of the whole strategy of the restoration of capitalism in China. China had to make a deal to open up China to global capitalism. They had to make a deal over Taiwan. They kind of agreed to disagree on arms. American capital wanted China, and so they came up with this idea in American foreign policy called a policy of ambiguity over Taiwan, which means the United States will never affirm that if China makes a move to reincorporate Taiwan into China, that the United States won’t make it clear that they will defend Taiwan, a sort of Article Five, like a NATO. So the ambiguity is the United States will never absolutely declare that because China would take that as a direct intervention in their sovereignty.

The Biden administration has been inching closer to quote-unquote, strategic clarity, which is coming out and saying— which Biden actually said, we will defend Taiwan. And then, of course, his staff jumped in and said, oh, we’re not giving up the policy of ambiguity and blah, blah, blah.

I think what’s going on here is posturing. So I talked about objective factors, and now we’re kind of into subjective factors, which is nobody wants to lose prestige. Biden wants to look tough on China for American politics. He doesn’t want to have this as a weak spot in fighting the Republicans. It serves the military-industrial complex to have ‘almost war’. The more ‘almost war’ you have, the better it is. This was true under the [Donald] Trump administration. They’re commissioning, I think it’s ten new Ford-class aircraft carriers at the cost of something like 13 or $14 billion each. You can’t justify that without an ‘almost war’ with a major power and major nuclear power because if you’re in a war even against an Iraq, you don’t need ten aircraft carriers.

Now, the joke of it is, or the irony or the stupidity is, that aircraft carriers are useless against China or Russia, for that matter, because both countries have the technology to knock out aircraft carriers relatively quickly. They would only be good against smaller powers who don’t have that capacity in which case you don’t need 10 of them. So it’s bullshit. It’s a boondoggle to spend money and make money for the military-industrial complex. The subjective factor that’s about prestige, about positioning, about we can’t look weak, it isn’t a non-factor. It exists partly for propaganda, both on the Chinese and the American side, but also in a way that a lot of the military leaders and political have internalized it as a real thing.

So there’s a very interesting thing that happened in 1958.

Excerpt

Formosa [Taiwan], 100 miles from the Red Chinese mainland, the U.S., bound by treaty to its defense. In the Formosa Strait, Chinese communist aggression centering around Quemoy poses the question of how far the U.S. will go trying to defend the offshore islands.

Paul Jay

In 1958, China, led by Mao Zedong, wanted to reincorporate Taiwan back into China. It had been seized by Chiang Kai-shek, who led the Nationalist Army that should be said were mostly collaborators with the Japanese and spent more time fighting against a communist-led People’s Liberation Army than they did fighting against the Japanese. They fought against the Japanese somewhat. There was a united front for a while. The Kuomintang, as they were called, did fight sometimes against the Japanese. Anyway, the Chinese Communist Party was far more popular. Millions and millions and millions of people supported it. When the war was over, the PLA took control of the Chinese government and Chiang Kai-shek, and the Kuomintang ran to Taiwan. The Americans jumped in to defend this anti-communist fascist dictatorship, and that’s what it was in 1958—a reactionary, essentially fascist dictatorship in Taiwan. The United States defended it because—

Colin Bruce 

This was not promoting democracy, just to be clear.

Paul Jay

There was not even a pretension of it. There was, like, everybody acknowledged. In 1958, all that mattered was you were anti-communist. Being a democracy was quite secondary.

Excerpt

Summoned to an emergency conference, Secretary of State [John Foster] Dulles to meet with President Eisenhower. Earlier, Mr. Dulles had conferred with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then talked with the President three times by phone. The Dulles-Eisenhower meeting is followed by a statement in which Red China is solemnly warned by the President that he will not hesitate to commit American armed forces to the defense of the nationalist offshore islands if he finds that necessary to the security of Formosa. Not alarming, but rather giving Beijing a chance to back off is the U.S. stand.

Meanwhile, the U.S. 7th Fleet has been steaming to within striking range to prevent invasion of Formosa from the mainland and vice versa. It is stressed the Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek can handle any present threat to their territory. Help would come only if the defense is proved inadequate.

Paul Jay

The PLA says look, we’re blowing these things up to show you we’re serious, and if you Americans try to interfere in us retaking Taiwan, we’re showing you we’re willing to use military force.

So there’s a meeting of the Joint Chiefs and the documents of the minutes of the meeting were part of a report that took place in 1964 that was commissioned by [Robert] McNamara. McNamara commissioned a report on the ’58 Taiwan Crisis to break down what happened. In that report is the minutes of the Joint Chiefs meeting. Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon papers, part of what he took when he took the Pentagon papers was this report. Now, he released sections of the report, and in an interview, I did with him, he read me sections that were still classified, which are going to be part of the film I’m making.

In the minutes of the conversation of the Joint Chiefs, one of the generals actually says that Eisenhower has already authorized us that if we can’t defend Taiwan, we should use nuclear weapons. One of the other generals says really? He’s actually already authorized it? Yes, we’re authorized that if it looks like Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek’s army and the American army are facing defeat, we can use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear, at that time, China, and take out a military installation and maybe even a city near the border where the artillery is. So another general says well, hold on, why are we going to do this? Somebody says, but why is Taiwan so important to us? He says why do we care about Chiang Kai-shek anyway? The first general says something like— I don’t have it right in front of me, but I’m pretty close to quoting it. He says because the prestige, influence and credibility of the U.S. umbrella in Asia will be compromised.

Colin Bruce

For prestige they were willing to throw a nuclear—

Paul Jay

So that’s what the next guy says. This next general says, but what will be the response of the Soviet Union? Hasn’t [Nikita] Khrushchev said he will support China if we attack with nuclear weapons, with nuclear weapons. At the very least, won’t they use a nuclear weapon against Taiwan? Then what are we actually defending because there’ll be no Taiwan left? The first guy says the alternative is worse. What’s the alternative? Losing prestige and credibility. Then the other guy says, well, if they nuke Taiwan, don’t we have to respond? One of the generals says, yeah. Well, doesn’t that lead to nuclear war? Yeah, because a lot of the Joint Chiefs at that time believed that they should use any excuse possible for a first strike against the Soviet Union. This came out again during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the majority of the Joint Chiefs wanted to have a strike against the Soviet Union and [John F.] Kennedy didn’t go for it.

So again, this guy says, well, the alternative is worse. The loss of credibility and prestige. So it was ridiculous. Like the objectivity. Taiwan was meaningless. Nobody gave a damn about the actual— I mean, at that time, there were no arms sales or semiconductors. There’s a bunch of rock and Chiang Kai-shek’s ragtag army. Still, because the commitment had been made to defend it, you can’t lose your prestige and credibility.

Now, it didn’t go nuclear because Mao Zedong, either they directly threatened China, which I think they did, or he learned and found out about it. I think they threatened. Mao Zedong decided that this wasn’t worth risking because, at that time, China had no nuclear weapons. Two, Mao Zedong knew something the Americans didn’t. Khrushchev was not going to reply. By that time, things were starting to get frosty between China and the Soviet Union. So Mao Zedong, knowing that they were in quite a vulnerable position, backed off, and they stopped shelling these outposts of rock.

Anyway, jump ahead. You can see how important it is to the Americans, to the Chinese, now especially, when you sell such an important nationalist narrative to your population. It’s so important to how you keep the fabric of your society together and supporting the governance of whoever is governing, whether it’s the American elites to their parties or the credibility of the Chinese Communist Party, where you promote nationalism so much, then this kind of subjective factor matters because you’re afraid your narrative will unravel. So you got to look strong. You can’t look weak.

Now, it’s a little different because the American narrative is far, far more— I shouldn’t say more— entirely based on a more aggressive posture. American prestige and credibility was and is based on maintaining American hegemony in the world and in the area. Chinese nationalism is more based on a defensive posture. You have to rally the population to defend socialism. To what extent you consider China socialist, capitalist, hybrid, whatever it is, it’s not, at least at this time, and I don’t see in any foreseeable time, but maybe who knows? You can’t rule it out depending on what happens in Chinese politics. It’s not an aggressive military posture. Economically, they’re reaching around the globe, but they are not building a military projection. Maybe in a minor way, they have subs, but that’s a deterrent. Do they really need an aircraft carrier? Maybe not, but still, their global power is based on their financial and economic power. So the nationalism there has a somewhat different character, but still, you got to maintain it.

Right now, they’re heading towards Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a good time to rally the troops. Why not just ignore Pelosi going? Why not say, listen, when it comes to U.S. foreign policy, Pelosi is a mosquito? You could insult her and treat her as irrelevant, which she kind of is when it comes to these issues, and not let it be an issue.

Colin Bruce

What position is the American government taking towards China? Is there a coherent position taking shape here? Or are we just being hit with everything under the sun that people think will win votes, and they’re switching positions right, left and center?

Paul Jay

The problem for the American elites is there is no coherent position possible except give up being the global hegemon. To some extent, you almost have to give up on American-style capitalism. So here’s the problem. China is going to be equal and then superior in terms of the size of the economy. It’s happening no matter what you do. Except maybe the Americans can create a pandemic that wipes out China. I mean, short of something crazy, which I’m not expecting. China is going to, at the very least, be the equal and really the superior.

There was an interesting quote I’ve quoted sometimes from [Vladimir] Putin. NBC asked Putin if there was some kind of nuclear strike on Russia, even small scale, would you reply with a large counter strike on the United States, knowing it would end life on Earth? His answer was, what would be the point of life on Earth without a Russia? I think the Americans think exactly the same thing. A lot of the really baked-in ideology, and we shouldn’t underestimate the subjective factor here, how much a lot of the military leadership, how much a lot of the political leadership in both parties are true believers in Cold War ideology. The essence of which was that the Soviet Union and then China are inherently aggressive, and they want to take over the world. We, American capitalism, are the only thing standing between authoritarianism and democracy.

You can’t underestimate how much these people actually believe it, even though it’s more or less nonsense. Nobody has supported fascist dictatorships around the world more than the United States, and the United States is the defender of Saudi Arabia, and you can go on from there. Anyone watching this knows this history. So the idea of its democracy versus authoritarianism it’s very hypocritical.

Here’s what I think these people believe. We Americans do bad things for good reasons. Everyone else does bad things for bad reasons. When we support a reactionary fascist dictatorship, we’re only doing it to stop the communists who are worse, in which case we support dictatorship to defend democracy. They believe this crap. Now, it’s very—

Colin Bruce

We saw in Chile with Henry Kissinger, even if democracy was what elected the socialist, you overthrow the socialist in order to—

Paul Jay

It’s an example out of a hundred examples, probably. You can’t underestimate how much these people really believe it. It’s not just a propaganda point. They have internalized the logic because it serves them to do so. You know, people like to believe things that make them rich. Like, why do the super wealthy— I’ll go back to something I said in another interview with you. Why do the super wealthy believe they deserve to be super wealthy? They can look around them, and they see the poverty, they see the chaos, they see the climate crisis and the threat of nuclear war. How do they believe it’s okay to keep this such a system going? Well, one, because they believe it’s a meritocracy. We deserve it. We worked our way to the top, and that’s the way life works. It’s social Darwinism. The strong should succeed, which is nonsense. Two— someday we can do a thing on social Darwinism, but anyway. Two, because God made it so, which is why so many of the elites believe in God. Why did the feudal aristocracy believe in the Church and even the Catholics, the authority, the Pope and all the rest? Because it justified them being the aristocracy, and they really had to believe in it.

When you’re born, you don’t know what you’re born into, a society not of your choosing. You’re educated. So in the United States or other countries, but in the United States, you’re sent to schools that teach you to think like a class that rules. So whether it’s a private school in New York or Harvard, you are trained to think as the ruling class. Now, of course, some individuals break from it, but most don’t. So part of that narrative of why I deserve to rule is American exceptionalism—America’s right to be the global hegemon.

Before World War II, it was okay to be an imperialist. It was a good thing. Before World War I, too, even wars of aggression, plundering of people, and the genocide of native people it was a good thing. If you were a leader that accomplished those things, you were a success story. It wasn’t until after the Nuremberg trials this was condemned. Well, a lot of that mentality still exists in the ruling classes.

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65 comments

  1. Bugs

    It’s become really apparent over the past year that the US foreign policy establishment is in a state of chaos, a sort of solipsistic thought loop. There’s absolutely no serious diplomacy happening between the major powers and the executive is the weakest it’s been in my lifetime. I can’t think of anything quite as bad, except perhaps Woodrow Wilson’s last years in office. We’re all at risk from this incompetence.

    Reply
    1. Lex

      My current theory is that US leadership operates only for domestic media. That is, it makes decisions based on projected media reaction to those decisions or makes decisions based on what domestic media is running. Essentially because everything boils down to domestic politics and the world outside our borders is only a spinoff series of the main storyline. It has always been this way to some degree (JFK not being able to “back down” over Cuba and needing the USSR to keep quiet about removing missiles from Turkey, for example) but is now an incoherent feedback loop. Partly because domestic politics is chaotic and partly because media is fragmented and unreliable as a gauge of the public mood. We’re not all listening to Cronkite together anymore.

      But there’s a big problem with this. The only thing US intelligence has ever successfully penetrated in terms of long term operational activity is the US media. CIA doesn’t have to convince POTUS to do something directly, it can just push a narrative via media which starts the flywheel of domestic politics. And with the “anonymous government official” being more than enough for the front page of the NYT, it’s child’s play.

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        An interesting comment. I too think that the media are at the root of our problem since they so dominate the conversation on everything.There was a time when the big media were a lot less concentrated and a lot more diverse with Republican and Democratic leaning newspapers. The CIA penetrated some of it but by no means all.

        Of course we have the web now which is super diverse but mostly lacking in power for that very reason. And yes there’s Fox News giving a little bit of push back against the Dems while still serving as a mouthpiece for the reactionary Murdochs and the ruling class.

        Hard to see any way out other than the house of cards collapsing from its own weight.

        Reply
        1. Susan the Other

          I’m not being flippant here. I actually believe, with you, that it is a house of cards – but I firmly believe it has no weight. It will blow away in the slightest breeze and we’ll all be left standing. Probably smiling. It’s such a strange phenomenon – I’ve seen it a zillion times. I think we need to coin a word for it when the fabulist paradigm comes to a stop. It is so quiet nobody notices. It’s just gone. The nice thing is is that all our institutions which were construed to withstand the push and pull of civilization will still be standing. It will only be the total nuttiness that will disappear. I think we can watch it on the evening news even.

          Reply
          1. playon

            Susan sincerly I hope you are right, but things seem quite entrenched from where I sit and I am pessimistic.

            Reply
          2. ChrisRUEcon

            I think the same thing sometimes … that something simple … like water on the wicked witch of the west … will be the answer.

            From you comment to ${DEITY}’s ears …

            Reply
        2. Tet Vet

          I think this piece could be viewed as a bit of nostalgia. Some might say, The good old days – when we could successfully bluff our enemies. Around that time John Kennedy famously said: “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. Today Biden would say: Speak loudly and pretend you have a big stick. Were he not so mentally challenged, Biden would surely realize that the world sees through him. We’re not going to bluff our way out of our foreign policy blunders like we used to. Surely we have given the world enough concrete evidence of the fact that when we pretend to defend other countries, the other countries always lose. Please cite for me one example of a country in which we intervened after WW2, by proxy or otherwise, who is better off for it. I’m surprised Taiwan hasn’t realized this (See Afghanistan for the latest example)

          Reply
      2. digi_owl

        Big +1 on this.

        Foreign policy is just an extension of domestic policy. And in this particular instance, likely part of Pelosi trying to land a couple more years in congress.

        That it may set of some nuclear war, who cares. She and her entourage will likely be down a bunker the moment the missiles register on NORAD screens. Likely already stocked with a year’s supply of her favorite ice cream.

        Reply
    2. Hickory

      Chomsky & Edward’s book describe the media is manipulated, and one major factor they discuss is basically shaming: a media organization is called communist/socialist/russia-lovers/etc if they don’t hew to a certain line. And the media then shame politicians and others the same way.

      The only way out I see, besides total societal collapse, is for citizens to learn to have their own thoughts, do their own research, and have their own conversations without all these being pre-crafted by the media. That’s when the politicians respond to voters. When the media leads the voters around by the nose, they can then lead politicians around too.

      Reply
      1. Landru

        My Friend, after the collusion to oust Bernie ( who really wasn’t that left) I have given up hope that we can change because it’s the right thing to do for the generations to come. We will not take one step to change while it rains for 9hrs. at the furthest weather station in Greenland, 127 degrees F in death valley, 100 deg.F in England, Siberia etc. The wealthy continue to enrich themselves while homeless camps continue to grow. People accept distraction, Gee, Bezos almost got into orbit. I have to agree now, I see no change until we are forced to change.

        I no longer talk with people who have younger children about what is coming. Working in science people always want to know what I think, I don’t tell them anymore. I write stories instead. The tipping points are already here and we still ignore them. So I write, Run to the LIght, Dirty Dozen to Mars, Dark Matter Zombies etc. ha.

        Reply
  2. digi_owl

    USA has been hypocritical in its foreign policy at least since developing the bomb if not before (Butler’s statement about being a thug for wall street for example).

    Reply
    1. Kouros

      First Nations can attest that USA has been hypocritical from the beginning. After all, one of the reason for the Revolution was that the Brits were making peace with the natives, thus curtailing the opportunity for colonists to take land and in the process some of the higher up in the pecking order to get rich, like George Washington…

      Reply
  3. dday

    Paul Jay is delusional when he says that he is almost as important to making US foreign policy as Nancy Pelosi.
    Pelosi is the Speaker of the House, third in line to the Presidency. She controls all US legislation, including budgets. Of course she has huge impacts on foreign policy.

    Reply
    1. Anthony G Stegman

      Paul Jay’s comment is valid. Pelosi has very little direct say in the foreign policy of the United States. Historically, foreign policy is the domain of the Executive branch, not the Legislative branch. It matters little that Pelosi is House Speaker when it comes to foreign policy.

      Reply
        1. Jams O'Donnell

          Who cares. The main point is that she and all the rest of them are bought and paid for by Boeing, BAE and all the rest of the MIC / FIRE etc.

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Bad faith. Looks like you are weighing in just to be disagreeable when your comment supports the point, that Pelosi and Congress do matter to foreign policy. Boeing et al wouldn’t need to own Pelosi if she didn’t make a difference.

            Reply
  4. HH

    The only thing that will break the spell of American militarism is the same thing that ended militarism in Japan. That day is coming.

    Reply
  5. Alice X

    …Two, Mao Zedong knew something the Americans didn’t. Khrushchev was not going to reply [to a US use of nukes against China].…

    Another thing that Ellsberg revealed in an interview with Paul Jay was that, despite Kennedy campaigning on the so called ‘missile gap’, the Soviets had all of four ICBMs and the Pentagon knew it, but the American people did not.

    Reply
    1. Polar Socialist

      The discussion is still going on, but many researchers have found it to be too convenient that between 1946 and early 1949 Western military intelligence greatly overestimated the number and capabilities of Soviet forces in total and in Eastern Europe especially.
      And after North Atlantic Treaty was signed, they equally consistently underestimated the size and capabilities of Soviet Forces in Europe.

      Reply
  6. Tom Stone

    I care about Pelosi because she is powerful and objectively insane.
    I do mean that literally, she and the people running US Foreign Policy are 5150, a danger to themselves and others.

    Reply
  7. Ali

    “what would be the point of life on Earth without a Russia?”
    I have the feeling that there is at least a trace of (self-)irony in this. While …

    Reply
  8. ChrisRUEcon

    Thanks so much for this! Especially in transcript form – as reading better suits retention for me, that just listening.

    Made all the points I think NC readers would appreciate, and built to a wonderful crescendo in the last two exchanges between Paul and Colin:

    The problem for the American elites is there is no coherent position possible except give up being the global hegemon.

    Absolutely. And the path trod by Biden, Blinken et al has set off a series of events that will reduce this hegemony in the near term

    • … we shouldn’t underestimate the subjective factor here, how much a lot of the military leadership, how much a lot of the political leadership in both parties are true believers in Cold War ideology.

    We’re stuck in a time warp. We need to get back to the future! What’s worse is that the ideology seems to have been successfully passed on to many younger people, who don’t even realize they’re parroting a set of beliefs based on something that’s robbing them of better futures. Paul explains how being schooled to think like the ruling class does this.

    The Money Quote:

    Here’s what I think these people believe. We Americans do bad things for good reasons. Everyone else does bad things for bad reasons. When we support a reactionary fascist dictatorship, we’re only doing it to stop the communists who are worse, in which case we support dictatorship to defend democracy. They believe this crap.

    Yep! And it’s yet another noble lie.

    Reply
    1. fresno dan

      ChrisRuecon
      great minds think alike (my takes are almost identical to yours). Seriously, I think the article shows how ingrained this thinking is. Decades of what amounts pracitically to religious belief. Its like our leadership is a priesthood, and only certain people are allowed into the competition, so the winners don’t even matter – they all believe the same thing.

      Reply
      1. ChrisRUEcon

        Cheers fresno dan! Frightfully kind of you. I’d like to think that while not exactly a hive-mind, our commentariat is well informed on issues such as these, and follows the bouncing ball quite well from the level of microcosm (the individual) the level of macrocosm (the nation, the globe).

        > Its like our leadership is a priesthood, and only certain people are allowed into the competition

        Indeed. Buying into klepto-plutocracy and imperialism are table stakes as it were.

        Reply
      2. Anthony G Stegman

        it isn’t just the elites who hold on to these quasi-religious beliefs. Most of us are brainwashed from a very early age to believe much of the same nonsense. A large percentage of Americans actually thinks “God” blesses America, and that America truly is the exceptional nation. The United States is the greatest country in the world, by far. I remember having that drilled into me in grade school. Baby Boomers in particular subscribe to these beliefs, largely because that generation was brainwashed and indoctrinated so intensely during the post-WWII era.

        Reply
        1. jobs

          Excellent observation. I believe this is one major reason that makes it so difficult to discuss the US’s role in the world with Americans, because people sometimes get downright angry / defensive when it is pointed out we are not quite the shining city on the hill as is often suggested.

          Reply
  9. fresno dan

    Summoned to an emergency conference, Secretary of State [John Foster] Dulles to meet with President Eisenhower. Earlier, Mr. Dulles had conferred with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then talked with the President three times by phone. The Dulles-Eisenhower meeting is followed by a statement in which Red China is solemnly warned by the President that he will not hesitate to commit American armed forces to the defense of the nationalist offshore islands if he finds that necessary to the security of Formosa. Not alarming, but rather giving Beijing a chance to back off is the U.S. stand.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. 7th Fleet has been steaming to within striking range to prevent invasion of Formosa from the mainland and vice versa. It is stressed the Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek can handle any present threat to their territory. Help would come only if the defense is proved inadequate.

    The problem for the American elites is there is no coherent position possible except give up being the global hegemon. To some extent, you almost have to give up on American-style capitalism. So here’s the problem. China is going to be equal and then superior in terms of the size of the economy. It’s happening no matter what you do. Except maybe the Americans can create a pandemic that wipes out China. I mean, short of something crazy, which I’m not expecting. China is going to, at the very least, be the equal and really the superior.
    ….
    A lot of the really baked-in ideology, and we shouldn’t underestimate the subjective factor here, how much a lot of the military leadership, how much a lot of the political leadership in both parties are true believers in Cold War ideology. The essence of which was that the Soviet Union and then China are inherently aggressive, and they want to take over the world. We, American capitalism, are the only thing standing between authoritarianism and democracy.

    You can’t underestimate how much these people actually believe it, even though it’s more or less nonsense. Nobody has supported fascist dictatorships around the world more than the United States, and the United States is the defender of Saudi Arabia, and you can go on from there.

    =======================================================
    I think what this proves is that democrats and republicans come and go, and any campaign blather about one party or the other being peaceniks or warmongers is simply Kabuki – the US has a policy that elections really have no affect upon. Anybody in any true position of power in the US has been filtered to believe and adhere to the precepts of the MIC

    Reply
    1. nippersdad

      Few things have irritated me over the past few years as much as Hillary Clinton’s overt reversion to her “former” Goldwater Girl rhetoric, even as she calls herself a “real” Democrat. As if there is any functional difference between herself and the John Birch Society Republicans of my youth.

      That is such a turn off, but at least we will always have the irony of her making the Kim Jong Un suit fashionable to audiences outside of North Korean circles.

      Reply
  10. Haddit

    Look around you. Everything you know and love may disappear because of this foul gerontocracy.

    It’s time for the American people to act like a comet and vaporize the species Rinosauraus and Dinosaurus, at the polls, with hand marked ballots, counted in public and retained for recounts. That’s one day in the future.

    Every day one can point out the hypocrisy by speaking to people about the evils of this administration and educating them to the degree possible.

    Also, if they have declared economic war on the American people by volunteering us for their sanctions, we can fight back wherever possible with a general spending strike to bring the war home and make the economy the issue that cannot be ignored.

    Reply
  11. T_Reg

    I listened to this video yesterday, and I’m still reeling. I have described capitalism as a death cult, but I had not fully internalized the reality of that before listening to Paul Jay. No sane person would entertain for a microsecond the idea of destroying the world in nuclear fire, for ANY reason. If anything, the thinking is worse than it was when Taiwan was called Formosa. The people running the world are intentionally destroying it a slower way, and the chance to do it in one fell swoop is attractive to them.

    I tend to denigrate binary thinking, but it’s feeling more and more that it’s us or them.

    Reply
    1. Susan the Other

      Epigenetics has been on our side. How have we survived our panic and aggression; our mythology and hysteria? Somehow there’s a vibe out there, or maybe a counter-vibe. Call it evolution. Call it logic. Call it sanity.

      Reply
    2. Anthony G Stegman

      Though there are some among the elite who think that a “limited” nuclear war can be fought and won, it is not widely believed among those in power. What the United States does is amass this huge global military presence and bully countries large and small into “behaving”. The United States has no intention of directly engaging in war with China or Russia. That would be suicidal. Instead, it expects China and Russia to act rationally, acknowledge the full spectrum dominance of the United States, and do what they are told. The elites in the United States would be in utter disbelief if China or Russia were themselves to push things to the brink of nuclear war, because, after all, that behavior is reserved for the United States alone. Or so they believe.

      Reply
  12. Lex

    That was a long winded way to say it’s all China’s fault. I’m perplexed by the US idea that it is on other nations to act rationally and be mature. Pelosi is important enough and her actions could not have happened without tacit support from the CinC, yet it is china’s responsibility to recognize that it all means nothing (probably) and act accordingly.

    It’s like how Russia should have restrained itself because Ukraine wasn’t really going to join NATO, we were just saying it would join NATO and arming like it would. How can Putin be so childish as to take us at our public word and not understand that we’re always lying in our public words. It’s on Russia and China to act not on our public lies but our private truths which we don’t share with them.

    Reply
  13. Amfortas the hippie

    i find that i agree with just about every sentiment expressed, here…both in the interview, as well as in the comments so far.
    but reading through, the thought keeps occurring to me: if it turns out i cant afford the dental work i need next week, ‘twould be a simple matter to enter a random redneck beerjoint and start talking like Jay does in this interview.
    tooth removal is all but certain.
    get any one of those rednecks out on the golfcart in the pasture with beer, and they’d agree with all this, at least half the time(based on my eavesdropping/fieldwork)…but confront them as a group, and the wagons are circled, the branches are waved, chests beaten….and the Hippie will be bleeding on the floor in short order.
    being antiempire is a lot like being gay was 20-30 years ago.

    Reply
    1. Watt4Bob

      …get any one of those rednecks out on the golfcart in the pasture with beer, and they’d agree with all this, at least half the time…

      IMHO, you’re describing progress.

      It doesn’t seem to be happening fast enough to provide much comfort, but it’s tangible, and in the right direction.

      Reply
  14. Stephen

    Brian Berletic’s New Atlas You Tube has a very informative video up on China’s military capability. It’s an hour but excellent and with a summary time stamp. Think he posted it after today’s Links and I could not see it there.

    Says that the US funds the separatist party in Taiwan and that this is a major part of the issue. I have no idea what the full evidence is for this claim but it sounds plausible. Had not seen it elsewhere. Given that the current Taiwanese government also seems to have spent $3m (in lots of smaller chunks) lobbying Nancy Pelosi over the past four years per some reports then there may be a circular flow going on.

    By the way, can anybody enlighten me as to precisely and tangibly what that sort of “lobbying” money gets spent on: is it for “consulting”? It’s not small change. Apologies for ignorance.

    Berletic also noted the Andrei Martyanov point that US submarines would be a major complexity if there were an invasion of Taiwan; an invasion that he also sees China as not being ready for nor ever wanting to execute.

    Also referred to 39 US soldiers being in Taiwan. Clearly not the largest overseas garrison but that seems in itself a violation of the One China concept.

    Reply
  15. Jason Boxman

    Because it justified them being the aristocracy, and they really had to believe in it.

    I think some of our elites are actual sociopaths, and probably don’t need to justify their behavior at all to themselves.

    Reply
  16. Telee

    At this time Senators Menendez and Lindsey Graham known as the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 which increases military support for Taiwan and contains harsh sanctions on China if there are an escalation of hostile action by China against Taiwan. The bill is seen as provocative and undermines the one China policy. Interesting that Mr. Jay has nothing to say about this attempt to modify the US stance with Taiwan and China. Between this bill and Pelosi’s visit in conjunction with other events it can be argued that China now believes war with the US is inevitable and they are preparing for it.
    Does Mr. Jay think all this is meaningless?
    https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2022/08/01/as-pelosi-taiwan-visit-looms-menendez-bill-would-gut-one-china-policy/

    Reply
    1. playon

      The idea of sanctions on China is even more absurd than the sanctions on Russia. How are you going to sanction a country that manufactures nearly everything Americans use on a daily basis..? China could retaliate in so many ways, for example stopping all pharmaceutical drug exports to the US.

      Reply
  17. Anthony G Stegman

    The United States has often considered using nuclear weapons when things aren’t going their way. It’s darn near the default position. During the Vietnam war the US considered using nuclear weapons to break the siege of the Marine firebase at Khe Sanh. Navy aircraft on carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin armed with nuclear weapons were on 5 minute alert. One was lost when a plane rolled overboard in heavy seas. During the Iraq war the US considered responding with nuclear weapons had Iraq deployed chemical weapons. So one can feel confident that in any direct conflict with Russia or China nuclear weapons may well be used.

    Reply
  18. DMK

    “Taiwan is the largest manufacturer of semiconductors in the world and by a long stretch of it. The United States does not want China to get control of Taiwanese semiconductors, which is part of why they’re going to defend Taiwanese democracy if democracy is made with semiconductors.”

    Imagine what would happen if China did take Taiwan and limited the export of semiconductors to the United States: something much worse than the supply chain crunch of the pandemic. Doubtful that even with the recent legislation that the US will have access to high end product it needs any time soon.

    Perhaps our generals hoped that China would stage a trial attack, as they did, so to be able to study and develop countermeasures.

    Reply
    1. Robert Hahl

      It was the Chinese reaction to Pelosi that made her proposed visit into a crisis, not the proposed visit itself. Maybe they knew China would react badly, but Paul Jay said that the Biden administration has been inching closer to “strategic clarity.” Apparently the Xi administration has too, and preventing the export of advanced semiconductor plants back to the US may be the reason. If the US was willing to trigger a war in Ukraine to prevent the opening of NordStream 2, perhaps China is willing to wreck the economy of Taiwan to prevent it from giving the US much help with modern technology.

      Reply
    2. SocalJimObjects

      I think it will be the opposite. The Chinese will sell however many semiconductors that would be required to turn the US into a “smart” nation i.e. the government will watch over your every move.

      Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          This is very helpful but I’m not sure if for the reasons you intended.

          First, this is by company for the top players and not the entire industry. Second, and more important, it explains the definitional issue and effective confirms my whinge. “Foundries” are subscontractors for semiconductor companies with no fabs. So it is a subset of the industry.

          Reply
          1. JustTheFacts

            TSMC has 5nm in production and is working on 3nm using EUV to release this year. Samsung is similar.

            Surprisingly, Chinese SMIC has 7nm in production using DUV, despite Western sanctions.

            Global Foundries has 12 nm in production.

            Intel is trying to get to 7nm this year, and has 10nm in production. I believe Intel will be using TSMC’s fabs for their newest chips.

            Computational power matters, and the fastest chips, be they CPUs or GPUs use TSMC’s process. If you halve the size of features you quadruple the number of transistors you can place in a given area, making chips either able to do more computation in parallel or reducing the size of the chip required, thereby increasing your profit. (Given the fact chips must connect to the real world, and pads to connect to the chip’s pins are placed on the edge of chips, sometimes you can’t reduce size further can can only increase computational power). Also, the smaller the chip, the less time it takes for electrons to move across it, which is important for speed. These 5nm processes are key to AMD, Nvidia and Apple’s new chips, which in turn are key to the supercomputers used to simulate nuclear bombs, climate change, protein folding, high-speed trading, aerodynamic simulation, fluid-dynamics simulations, etc. TSMC is not just “a foundry” or a “subcontractor”. It is a linchpin for computational dominance. It is for this reason that Taiwan (and South Korea’s Samsung) matter much more than one might think. To sum up, TSMC is not just any old “subcontractor”.

            Reply
  19. Palaver

    I’ve always been susprised why some liberals are so partial to China given the totalitarian nature of their political system. It’s so inappropriate that I’ve become cynical. The CCP is building a cause for war so that supposedly random provocations in the future seem warranted. In truth, empire is empire and the CCP is the one poking the other side’s political resolve. It’s a geopolitical game and the belligerent trying to paint their aggression as forced is classic prewar propaganda. We Americans ought be familiar with and tired of this Orwellian whip.

    In this round of chest pounding, it’s better for the US to strengthen its ties with Taiwan to prevent a war of opportunity from occurring. Strategic ambiguity in this scenario invites conflict. Give Taiwan a nuke, like we did with Israel and Pakistan. Sure, it will be rough in the beginning, but their threatening neighbor will eventually acknowledge their right to exist and negotiate a status quo, though a status quo already existed before Xi. So it would be a return to the status quo.

    I’m not anti-China, quite the opposite, we should adopt and learn from their successful policies and strategies. But we should also recognize the same evils in their ambitions that are leading us to our own downfall.

    Reply
    1. Glen

      I think you must be confusing “liberal” with Wall St and American CEOs who have spent over twenty years and billions of dollars to get American technology, factories, and jobs moved to China.

      By your definition of “liberal”, the Walton family of WalMart fame must be the most ardent of liberals because they have championed China even BEFORE China joined the WTO. And they are not just talk, they destroyed American companies that did not comply with their mandate to move or else.

      Reply
  20. John Steinbach

    “Give Taiwan a nuke, like we did with Israel and Pakistan. Sure, it will be rough in the beginning, but their threatening neighbor will eventually acknowledge their right to exist and negotiate a status quo, though a status quo already existed before Xi. So it would be a return to the status quo.” “it’s better for the US to strengthen its ties with Taiwan to prevent a war of opportunity from occurring.”

    These are arguments for maintaining the US empire at any cost. I can’t imagine any scenario where providing nukes to & strengthening ties with Taiwan wouldn’t result in war between the US & China.

    Reply
    1. Ana Claybourne

      Regarding nukes in Taiwan, I lived there in the late 1950’s and my father was in charge of the cruise missiles (mace and matador series) that carried them. They were tucked into the jungle outside the then small city of Tainan. I doubt the author knew any of this.

      My father would take me with him to work on weekends and there they were, hanging from the ceiling sans nose cones. The year of the uproar noted in the article was the year we accidentally launched one.

      I saw it happen. An Air Farce idiot decided to “rev it up” at the 4th of July parade at the Air Farce base nearby. It was mounted on a truck based mobile launcher and indeed it did launch. Without the jato mini rocket assist that hung below the main engine. Without launch codes from DC.

      You cannot imagine the noise of it launching and the two ground hugging jets that chased it with afterburners lit. It shook the inside of my body and was deafening.

      My father was horrified and told me to stay with my mother as he started to run toward the empty launcher. We did not see him for several days. “It achieved it’s target” he said when he finally came home grey faced.

      I would also like to say our military regarded the losing army from the mainland with reverence. The indigenous people among whom my family lived saw them as pillaging monsters and invaders.

      Ana in Sacramento

      Reply
  21. c_heale

    I don’t think liberals are partial to China. Liberals are in government in the USA at this moment. Liberals are pro US hegonomy and globalization.

    I have no idea what a war of opportunity means.

    George Orwell’s book 1984 was about the West.

    Reply
    1. tegnost

      I think this is true.
      Globalisation isn’t really acknowledged to be taking over the world among my globalist friends outright, but they see their dominance as sacrosanct because computers and intellectual property.
      It’s a war of opportunity in the sense that disruption is the first step in the modern way of conquest.
      This same thinking was at the core of the assumption that uber would destroy all other options, and even though that can’t happen (see hubert horan series 1 through 32) they’re still “all in”

      Reply
  22. Ranger Rick

    Until cooler heads and MAD prevailed, nukes were typically the “go-to” solution for any large strategic problem. Large fleet? Nuclear torpedo or sea mine. Large bomber squadron? Nuclear missile. Large tank formation? Nuclear artillery or bombs.

    During the Korean War, MacArthur’s first instinct upon learning China was intervening on behalf of the North was to use nuclear weapons. Truman fired him over this (the whole series of events is a remarkable chapter in US military history), and the policy of limited confrontation prevailed ever since.

    Reply
  23. VietnamVet

    There is no armistice on the line of contact in Ukraine and Nancy Pelosi didn’t cancel her trip to Formosa (Taiwan) because either would prove that USA/UK Empire (Wall Street and City of London) is no longer the global hegemon. The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Fall of Kabul are earlier huge cracks in the Imperial Facade.

    At best, the breakaway and financial independence of Russia, Iran and China will mean that North America and Europe will have to live within their means or at worse it assures the use of tactical nuclear weapons with Russia’s seizure of Western Ukraine and the imminent invasion of Poland or the loss of a Naval Aircraft Carrier in the Taiwan Strait.

    Western political and business overseers’ status and funds come from being top dog. Likely, they will risk End Days to stay put.

    Reply
  24. lambert strether

    > In the minutes of the conversation of the Joint Chiefs, one of the generals actually says that Eisenhower has already authorized us that if we can’t defend Taiwan, we should use nuclear weapons. One of the other generals says really? He’s actually already authorized it? Yes…

    I find it very hard to believe Chinese decision-makers don’t know this, and I would imagine it colors their reaction

    Reply

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